News from Lori's Parents

3 April 1998

In this update:

The Situation at Yanamayo

On March 1 and again on March 4 there were beatings of male prisoners at Yanamayo, but the women -- although harassed-- were not harmed. The beatings were a response to protests by prisoners for improved prison conditions. Rhoda has just returned from Yanamayo and we know that the prison is now "quiet" and Lori is "okay." Although Lori has no new health problems, she is preparing for the onset of cold winter weather and the difficulties that come with it.

Finally, after 15 months of being denied access to the prison, the International Red Cross has visited Yanamayo.

President Clinton Likely to Meet with President Fujimori

President Clinton will be traveling to Chile for a Conference of Western Hemispheric Presidents, April 16 - 20. Because it is likely that he will encounter the Peruvian President, we have been striving to either meet with Mr. Clinton before his trip or, if that is not possible, to have "the right person" inform him of the importance of telling Mr. Fujimori that Lori's situation must be resolved. It is high time that President Clinton stand strong for justice and champion Lori's case.

We will be culminating our post card and letter campaign just before this trip. We will also have a telephone, e-mail, FAX campaign. We will provide the details next week.

The State Dept.'s Response to Congress

The State Department has now responded to the December letters from 52 Senators and 175 Representatives that had been delivered to Secretary of State Albright urging her to do all in her power to insure immediate justice for Lori. Many of you have received copies of this response when you contacted your elected officials. Unfortunately, the letter contains both erroneous and very misleading information. In particular, the letter leads readers to believe that an alternative to a civilian trial -- an application to an Peruvian Ad Hoc Pardon Commission -- is a mechanism by which Lori can obtain justice. This is not true. We wish it were!

This Commission does exist and has the authority to review cases of prisoners and make recommendations to President Fujimori for pardons. However, when one of her attorneys met with members of this Commission several months ago he was told that the Commission was not designed to handle high profile cases such as Lori's. He was told that if Lori applied, her case would be "shelved."

In addition, at least one of the three members of this so-called impartial Commission, a man who has never met or interviewed Lori, has told journalists that he believes she is guilty, i.e, "she continues to associate clearly with the MRTA prisoners in the prison." (This comment is incredible -- For 28 months Lori has spent her entire life only being allowed to share yard time (30 minutes to an hour per day) with four other women, three of whom are in MRTA -- she has nobody else!

Because of the secret nature of the Commission's proceedings along with the fact that the Peruvian government makes public only the names of those who have been granted pardons, those who are not pardoned do not know whether their applications were investigated and then rejected, simply "shelved" or were approved but vetoed by President Fujimori. In fact, President Fujimori has denied pardons to 5% of the individuals recommended as innocent.

Clearly, this Commission cannot take the place of a real, open trial in a civilian court. It is another secret proceeding that still does not allow for the cross examination of witnesses or seek counter evidence, or in any way provide the due process that international law requires.

We have absolutely no confidence that this Commission, which is clearly not impartial, which wishes to avoid "high profile cases," which acts in secret and which is subordinate to President Fujimori, will result in Lori's release. We believe it will only result in many months of waiting, during which time alternative efforts by the State Department and others will be put on hold. In particular, we have learned that it would halt action on the petition filed on Lori's behalf against the government of Perú with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS. This would mean any recommendations from that body to the Peruvian government to remedy Lori's situation would be postponed, perhaps indefinitely. We will not let that happen.

We cannot understand why our own State Department would make such a suggestion rather than face its responsibility of defending an American citizen and insist on real justice for Lori. Surely, America as the world's only superpower and alleged champion of democracy, freedom, liberty, justice, and human rights should be doing more. We expect more.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson